Degree taps WNBA champ Candace Parker for March Madness gender equality campaign

Personal care brand Degree has launched a new campaign ahead of March Madness designed to garner greater investment in women’s sports. Through a new challenge, fans will be rewarded – and have the chance to fund women’s college athletics programs – for filling out Women’s March Madness brackets.

Ahead of March Madness next month, Unilever-owned deodorant and antiperspirant brand Degree has launched a new campaign meant to help advance equity in sports. Last year, some 40 million fans filled out a Men’s March Madness Tournament bracket. Per an Edelman Data & Intelligence survey completed last month among 2,000 members of the US population who were aware of March Madness, people are over twice as likely to fill out a men's bracket than a women's March Madness bracket. Degree wants to close that gap and give female basketball players the support and recognition they deserve.

Dubbed the ‘Bracket Gap Challenge,’ Degree has teamed up with two-time WNBA champion and two-time NCAA champion Candace Parker to get fans to fill out their first-ever NCAA Women’s March Madness Tournament bracket. Fans in the top bracket will have a chance to win $25,000, as well as an additional $75,000 to be donated to the women’s college athletic program of their choice.

To promote the campaign, Degree, which is the official deodorant sponsor of the March Madness Tournament, teamed up with PR and marketing consultancy Edelman to develop a new TV spot starring Parker. In the ad, shot in what appears to be a college basketball stadium, Parker stands next to a whiteboard and explains how the challenge works to an audience of attentive students. “Support female athletes by filling out your brackets now – because we’re not done yet,” she concludes while sinking a picture-perfect three-pointer.

“[The reason] we love this program so much is its inherent simplicity that can help to bring about meaningful change. All we’re asking is for people to fill out a women’s March Madness bracket, but the potential impact from that simple action is so massive,” Desi Okeke, Unilever’s director of Degree tells The Drum. “Brackets drive engagement and viewership, which leads to more recognition for these athletes. We’re leveraging an authentic mechanism of fantasy sports to create real-world fandom and tangible financial support.”

The ‘Bracket Gap Challenge’ is an extension of Degree’s broader $5m commitment to encourage people to break limits and keep moving. Okeke hopes that this campaign will help create momentum for that mission: “Looking forward,” she says, “we hope that the ‘Bracket Gap Challenge’ raises awareness for the next generation of women’s college basketball players and motivates girls across the country to stay in the game.”

Lydia Daniel, creative director at Edelman, helped to concept and develop the creative for the brand campaign. “Degree came to Edelman with an incredible brief: to make a difference for female equity,” she says. “As we were concepting ideas for March Madness, my first thought was, ‘How insane is it that bracket-building culture just completely ignores the women’s tournament?’” What resulted was of course the ‘Bracket Gap Challenge.’

Daniel says that the process of bringing the project to life has been personally rewarding. “I’ve worked in advertising for a while, and this is the kind of work I’ve always wanted to do, particularly as someone who grew up playing sports and [saw] the discrepancy between male and female athletes firsthand,” she says.

Fans can access the challenge via a dedicated landing page created by Degree in partnership with Yahoo Sports. Though Yahoo Sports has served as a hub of fantasy sports betting for a number of years, the ‘Bracket Gap Challenge’ represents the platform’s first foray into NCAA women’s brackets.

The campaign launches today. Parker will kick off betting by filling out her own bracket – then all are welcome to join on this upcoming Sunday March 13. Commonly referred to as Selection Sunday, this upcoming Sunday marks the date that the entire 68-team tournament field is officially announced.

The campaign will be activated across digital and social channels and will see additional promotion through talent and influencer partnerships.

The campaign will be activated across digital and social channels and will see additional promotion through talent and influencer partnerships.

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